I love the conversations I have with my daughters; I never know where they are going to lead. Recently all they have wanted to talk about is Harry Potter. I’ve been reading the books too, catching them up, so I have some idea about what they are referencing whenever we chat.
This week we were discussing which house we thought we would each be in. My girls love Harry and his friends, Ron and Hermione, who are in Gryffindor. For anyone who doesn’t know this house symbolises bravery and courage, while the others each represent kindness and humility, intelligence and creativity, and cunning and ambition.
My girls’ instant reaction, desire, was to be in Gryffindor. It is clear from the books, because the main characters are from Gryffindor, that the reader is set up to value the positive qualities exhibited by these characters. I realised that it probably wouldn’t be where the sorting hat would place me, I’m more of a Ravenclaw at heart. Maybe I could do with more bravery and courage in my life?
What exactly is does being brave mean, what is courage?
These are two words often used synonymously, to mean being ready and able to face danger, difficulties, even pain. But the difference is that courage is mindful, aware, of the fear that comes with this danger or difficulty and remaining strong in its face. Bravery, in contrast, has the element of recklessness about it. And yet I know I talk to my children of being brave, rather than having courage.
Should we value these qualities so highly?
There is no doubt that I have had challenging moments in my life. Sometimes I have been brave and dealt with my problems whilst also trying to insulate myself from them. And sometimes I have had courage and made a decision to face them head-on. The application of bravery or courage depends on the situation perhaps. I think that without courage, or indeed bravery, I would not be here. In my position in life now, or even in life at all.
I am the kind of person who is frightened by even little things in life, like going to a new place. But I face these things when they are small and incremental. I wonder what would happen to my life if faced up to bigger things? Things that really scare me. If I admitted my fear and did them anyway. I can predict that I might become generally become less scared. But I know for sure that I would do more in my life, and certainly have more opportunities for discovery and growth.
My daughters have gradually been having new experiences in their lives that scare them. I can’t always ameliorate these for them. This is part of growing up but how they deal with this now, will affect how they deal with situations that scare them when they are adults. Fear is not often acknowledged in our society. It is not spoken about because it is seen as a weakness. Is it because we think fear will feed fear? ‘Being brave’ glosses over underlying fears. Except I know that when I recognise my fears for what they are I am much more mindful of my responses to them. In both mind and body. I can do more with, than without courage.
How can I inspire my daughters to be courageous and brave?
In speaking out about my own fears to my girls I can help them recognise that they are normal, legitimate even. That fears can be worked with, overcome or even eliminated. I don’t think it is possible or even desirable to get rid of every possible fear. But I can try to find a place, a balance where fear is not controlling what I do or what they do in their lives. In our conversation this was pretty much where we got too as well. That being courageous is better than doing nothing.
One of the things I want to carry with me into the New Year (oh yes its coming!), is the idea that I can choose to have courage and meet my challenges head on. I’m sure I can help my daughters have courage by showing them a good example. And perhaps all this will translate some day into bravery that would otherwise not be there.
What do you think? Are you brave or courageous? Can being more courageous enhance a life? What have you found the courage or bravery to do?